A brief description of a behavior I would like to change
I would like to recommence my weight loss journey to reach my goal weight and ideal body mass index. This goal requires that I modify my behavior to incorporate restrained and selective eating behaviors, and at a minimum, regular daily walks. I have previously been successful in this type of regimen, typically inclusive of weekly attendance to a local Weight Watcher meeting as a support group.
According to Ajzen and Fishbein (1980) Theory of Reasoned Action intentions pave the way to behavioral goal success. To wit, my behavioral intentional (goal) is dependent upon my attitude and perceived subjective norms (Anderson & Lavallee, 2008), both of which are weighted as to importance. “The first is the attitude toward the behavior and refers to the degree to which a person has a favorable or unfavorable evaluation or appraisal of the behavior in question. The second predictor is a social factor …it refers to the perceived social pressure to perform or not perform the behavior” (Doll & Ajzen, 1992, p. 755). Ajzen (1991) expanded this theory into the Theory of Planned Behavior to incorporate perceived behavioral control, “which is the person’s belief in their ability and control to execute a behavior” (Anderson & Lavallee, 2008, p. 305). “The third antecedent of intention is the degree of perceived behavioral control, which refers to the perceived ease or difficulty of performing the behavior and is assumed to reflect past experience as well as anticipated impediments and obstacles” (Doll & Ajzen, 1992, p. 755; Schifter & Ajzen, 1985).
Therefore, the antecedents towards my behavioral success in recommencing my weight loss journey to reach my goal weight hinges on my attitude and subjective norms. It sounds relatively simple; however, few things in life are ever so simple. For instance, according to the basic tenet of the theory my attitude is evaluated towards the final outcome of the behavior; however, my attitude encompasses feelings towards weight loss, the ultimate outcome of being healthier, restrained eating (less food), alternate eating choices (less fattening foods, more healthy foods), and regular exercise. Perhaps, this may be one of the reasons the Theory of Reasoned Action was less successful, thus evolving into the Theory of Planned Action, which incorporated perceived control as a pertinent antecedent. My feelings are strongly positive towards the ultimate outcome; neutral to positive towards restrained eating, negative towards alternate eating choices, and neutral to positive towards certain types of regular exercise. Regarding exercise, I enjoy walking short distances (up to a mile and a half) at a fairly brisk pace. Weighting the attitudes yields a marginally positive attitude easily overridden when cognitively distracted, overwhelmed or emotionally depleted.
Subjective norms are also far from simple; which norms are most influential? My spouse loves me. Derrick has told me numerous times that he “has loved me thin, loved me heavy … will always love me.” He only asks that I be healthy and happy. If being at a particular body mass index means I am healthier and/or happier, and then he is supportive. Hence, there is no normative pressure from my spouse to lose weight or eat healthily. My father falls within the same supportive, nonpressuring bracket as my spouse. The general populace where I live tends to be more appearance conscious because it is southern California, however, my friends, associates, neighbors, and church members are representative of the typical sizes and shapes one would expect to see nationwide. Lastly, my doctor has not made any special requests or admonitions regarding my weight. I am overweight by approximately 30 to 40 pounds, but do not currently exhibit any medical deficiencies due to my weight. Therefore, the bottom line is that the norms of those around me amount to mild support with no pressure for me alter my weight, eating habits, or exercise habits one way or the other.
According to Schifter and Ajzen (1985), “the degree of success will depend not only on one’s desire or intention to lose weight but also on such nonmotivational factors as availability of requisite opportunities and resources (e.g., time, money, skills, willpower, etc.). Collectively, these factors represent people’s actual control over their body weight” (p. 844). Many challenges I have mentioned already in the form of neutral to negative attitudes towards process aspects towards achievement of the ultimate goal. Further, although the subjective norms do not pressure me to lose weight or exercise, my immediate subjective norms actually tend towards pressure in the opposite direction. For instance, my husband especially enjoys eating out at night and on weekends. Additionally, my father, who is the primary cook in the house, has a tendency to prefer preparing his favorites that tend towards high fat foods in large quantities. Further, I work all day at a sit down job and even attend school online thus making it difficult to fit in exercise. In order to walk I need to go before work in the early morning hours or after dinner in the evening hours. The difficulty arises when the men in the house balk at my walking alone in the dark, which is an acceptable concern. Lastly, in my previous experiences of successful exercise and nutrition maintenance I regularly attended Weight Watchers meetings. However, I have moved away from my previously attended meeting and due to cut backs, they have closed many of their locations. I am, now, on the hunt for a suitable support group for my meetings. These meetings operate as the positive pressure aspect (subjective norms) that would be most beneficial to my success.
The Theory of Planned Behavior incorporates the element of perceived control over the behavior. As mentioned hereinabove there are aspects of my journey I have little control over, such as what my father makes for dinner, my husband’s desires to eat out, and when I can squeeze in a few minutes of exercise time, but there are other ways to increase my success. Schifter and Ajzen (1985) found that “a better predictor of weight loss was the degree to which women believed that they had control over their weight. Those women who strongly intended to lose weight and also believed they were capable of doing so were most likely to succeed” (p. 850). Hence, a positive attitude and belief in my ability to achieve my goal is beneficial.
A more current study of overweight participating in a 16-week weight control program determined that “change in eating/weight management self-efficacy was the single best correlate of weight reduction” (Palmeira et al., 2007, p. 7). According to the self-efficacy theory, “beliefs are presented as a function of enactive mastery experiences, vicarious learning, verbal persuasion, and physiological and emotional activation” (Palmeira et al., 2007, p. 8). Thus, that self-efficacy may be improved through positive support groups such as Weight Watchers, which also function as positive norms positively pressuring individuals to lose weight, while at the same time, providing them with nutritional information, resources, and ideas to prepare themselves for potential challenges along the way. In this way I can use the supportive guidance of peers to help me make positive choices when eating out, choosing to eat less when eating in, and perhaps, getting a bigger dog to walk at night. Further, as the Theory of Planned Behavior also relates, perceived control is based on previous experiences as well as anticipated obstacles. I have positive previous experiences in losing weight and eating appropriately. Therefore, I know what to do, how to do it, now I just need to literally get off my bottom to do it!
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